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Contentious policy passed by school board restricts some racial, cultural curriculum

By Dylan Carter

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    RICHLAND, Washington (KAPP) — By a 4-to-1 vote, the Richland School Board approved a contentious policy that instills certain restrictions on the way race, sexuality and culture are allowed to be discussed in the schools’ curriculum.

During a school board meeting on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 25, four of the five Richland School Board members agreed to Policy 2360, which is entitled ‘Race, Culture, and the Curriculum.’

It’s a near-identical policy to one that was passed by the Kennewick School Board earlier this year. The following passage comes directly from the document shared during this meeting:

The Board recognizes that students must learn factual U.S. History. History, sociology, literature, the arts, and other disciplines taught in school may have a racial dimension. Study of these disciplines, including their racial dimension, shall ensure that while students are taught that racism exists today, they will not be indoctrinated in the belief that the U.S. is fundamentally or systemically racist. Moreover, students will not be taught that their race determines their value or worth or that members of any race are inherently racist, oppressors, or victims. Neither preferential nor disparaging treatment shall be applied to learning about any race, and no student shall be taught that their skin color determines their ability to succeed; that their race determines their moral character; or that their race make them responsible for past transgressions of their race. Moreover, no student shall be taught that their socio-economic status or U.S. citizenship status makes them superior or inferior to others.

For many parents with children in Richland public schools, this decision brought about conflicting feelings. The school board didn’t take any input or amendments suggested by parents into account before moving forward with the policy.

This declaration of neutrality was approved roughly eight months after the same board took an outspoken stance by prematurely removing mask mandates for Richland schools. When the Washington Dept. of Education threatened to withhold funding for refusing to follow the rules, the group backtracked and in turn, faced serious backlash from the community.

“If we were going by our code of ethics, where the school board came in and left their politics at the door, sure,” Elizabeth Vann Clark, a Richland parent stated. “But what we’ve watched over the past couple of years where our recent school board members have been voted in, is that they aren’t leaving their politics at the door.”

Other individuals, including one who chose not to identify themselves, felt that this commitment to neutrality is the right way to react in a time when disinformation is rampant.

In addition to race, the discourse surrounding sexuality was at the forefront of this debate with a group of parents holding signs and LGBTQ+ flags representing their stance on the policy. Staci West, who spoke via Zoom during the meeting, didn’t want the Richland school board to be making any of its decisions or policies based on fear.

“We must own our past,” West proclaimed “If this board determines pride flags are political flags, then they are marginalizing the LGBTQA+ students, staff and faculty, who deserve to feel physically, mentally and emotionally safe when at school or activities.”

Despite these restrictions on what can be taught, students still have protections to express their feelings or views on race, culture and similar topics. This follows a direct requirement incorporated in the Washington State Constitution.

Those forms of expression include various styles of art, writing, reporting, debate or appropriate classroom discussion.

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